Flying is generally the quickest way to travel, but it sure is a faff. Between security, queueing to board, and passport control, everything takes longer than other modes of transport. How can you save time at the airport and have a hassle-free, low-stress journey?
You’re a busy person, who wants to travel a lot. So use these five travel hacks to save time at the airport and join the pros of efficient travel!
1. Download the App and Check In Online
Smartphones are changing the world of travel, but not quickly enough for my liking. You should be able buy just about anything with an app, whether that’s a flight ticket or a haircut. But anyway, I digress.
Fortunately, airlines have been early adopters of electronic boarding passes, so you can save time at the airport. There’s no need to queue to print anything out or a constant need to check you still have your boarding pass.
Smartphones have so many other travel uses as well: finding friends to hang out with; booking accommodation; using maps to get around town. They really should be considered a travel essential at this point. Anyway, if you have one, check-in online and save your travel pass on your phone.
2. Perfect Your Backpack Organisation
Airport security is usually the biggest hold up for any trip abroad. Not knowing how long you’ll wait in security makes it hard to plan in advance. This is why people often turn up unnecessarily early for their flights. Which is fine, by the way. I like to do it so I can spend time shopping or relaxing in the airport bar.
But if you’d rather turn up later, then you’ll need to know how to hack security. Find a carry-on backpack with excellent organisation, such as this one from ARCIDO. This bag comes with a hidden passport pocket, so you always know where your passport and wallet are. It also, like many bags, has a laptop compartment so you can easily slide it out at security.
If everything in your bag has a specific place, you won’t be faffing about looking for the things you need to catch your flight. To save time at the airport, up your organisation game. In particular, get yourself a durable, clear-sided washbag. Throw all your liquids in there to speed through airport security. I even have a dedicated power bank pocket, so I can always get some extra charge when I need it.
3. Bring Carry-On Luggage Only to Save Time at the Airport
When I was a kid, I thought that waiting a lifetime for your luggage after the plane landed was just part of the trip. And, for reasons that are unclear, my suitcase was always one of the last to turn up. Except for that time in New York, when my suitcase didn’t arrive at all because it went to Houston instead.
As I started travelling solo and looking into airport guidelines, I realised that checking in luggage is rarely necessary. If you’re travelling long-term, rather than, say, moving house, then there’s no reason you can’t get by with carry-on sized luggage. I’ve been doing it for years. I step off the plane and walk straight past the baggage reclaim to the exit. I’m not sure how much time this has saved me cumulatively, but it feels like a lot.
4. Fly at Off-Peak Times
Not only does flying off-peak save you money on flight tickets, but it can also save time at the airport. Queues for check-in, security, and boarding are bound to be shorter. A quiet airport is an easy airport to navigate. Try to book a flight that departs after 10 pm to enjoy the swiftest journey through the terminal.
Whether you want to grab a beer, have dinner, shop for souvenirs, or use the airport showers, you won’t need to worry about queueing. You’ll have to sacrifice a decent night’s sleep, but on balance I find that flying when the airport is the least busy is the most pleasant. You’ll have no crowds to contend with and will more quickly be able to get support from staff, if you so require.
5. Pack the Right Travel Accessories
One of my favourite parts of travel is the gear that makes it efficient. There are a few pieces of tech you can use to help you save time at the airport, a power bank being the main one.
Though most airports will have charging stations, they’re often quite difficult to find and could already be in use. Even if you can find a free power outlet, you have to stand over your phone while it charges. With a power bank, you can be simultaneously charging your phone and doing other tasks. Whether that’s getting food, finding your gate, or going through security, save time by charging your phone while you do it.
Other travel accessories to save you time at the airport:
- Mobile WiFi: airport internet often requires you to spend ages signing up, then turns out to be slow or only available in certain areas. Save yourself a bunch of time with your own mobile hotspot.
- Filter Water Bottle: I think it should be a crime for airports to ban you from passing through security with drinking water and then not offer a free refill on the other side. But apparently, it’s not. Lots of airports do have water fountains, but many don’t. Or at least, they’re very well hidden. With a filter water bottle, you can just fill up from any bathroom tap and it’ll be safe to drink.
- Sleeping mask and earplugs: everything is more complicated when you’re tired. Get yourself a high-quality set of earplugs and an eye mask so you can power nap anywhere. When you’re refreshed, you’ll move through the airport much more quickly.
I love the bustle of a busy airport, but sometimes, you just want to get through security and onto the plane as quickly as possible. Use these five travel hacks to save time at the airport and spend more time in destination.